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Killearn Country Club Owner Moves Forward Despite Court Orders

Posted on October 26, 2015

Killearn Country Club Owner Moves Forward Despite Court Orders

The redevelopment efforts of Barton Tuck, the current owner of the Killearn Country Club, is spiraling into controversy.

Tuck’s recent decision to close the north nine holes has increased the urgency for all those with a vested interest.

It now appears Mr. Tuck, and his legal team, have lost their patience with the court system and has decided to ignore some rather clear decisions from the bench.

Earlier this month, Mr. Tuck decided to move forward with a vote of the members to determine if the club would be sold based on a majority vote.

This is despite court rulings that indicates that such a “majority vote” approach is not consistent with state law.

The issue revolves around a seldom used, but rather powerful covenant restriction which requires the owner of the Killearn Country Club to offer the club for sell to the members if the owner decides to close any of the golf course.

The problem is, the implementation of the covenant restriction language can be interpreted in different ways.

Mr. Tuck desires the “majority vote” interpretation while other members argue minority rights cannot be nullified by a majority vote.

However, court rulings to date have sided with the minority view.

Judge James Hankinson, who heard arguments over the restrictive covenant late last year said:

There’s no question in my mind that a restrictive covenant is an individual property right of the individual property owners. And whether 3,400 of them agree that it would be a good idea to waive the other’s hundred’s property rights, I don’t think the Court is likely to find that to be supported by the law.

In a more recent hearing, with Judge Angela Dempsey presiding, Mr. Tuck’s attorney made a motion for the court to find in favor of the “majority vote” approach.

Dempsey

Judge Angela Dempsey

But Judge Dempsey rejected the motion and stated in the hearing, when asked about the restrictive covenant language, “Well, I think there is factual disputes on that…”

So why is Mr. Tuck moving forward.

Sources tell TR that while the court may not recognize the vote held by Mr. Tuck, the process could impact the ultimate decision rendered by Judge Dempsey.

And that could happen as soon as December 16th.

That is when Judge Dempsey will hear a motion by Mr. Tuck’s attorney that seeks to effectively support Mr. Tuck’s interpretation of the restrictive covenant.

Regardless of how Judge Dempsey rules at the next hearing, one thing is clear, letters and emails reviewed by TR indicate the controversy is beginning to pit club members against club members and neighbors against neighbors.

26 Responses to Killearn Country Club Owner Moves Forward Despite Court Orders

  1. Eric Reply

    October 26, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    They should open the course up to the public like south wood.

  2. Paul Forshay Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 7:34 am

    A large majority of members of Killearn Country Club have approved Mr. Tuck’s plan to restructure the club and absolutely rejected the proposal and lawsuit brought by the few. The opponents have provided no P/L statement nor answered the many questions sent to them having to do with exactly HOW they intend to run the club in a way that will not lead to the total collapse. As a start, any non-golf members will not have their swimming pool or tennis courts as they are not part of the property offered for sale. Thus the loss of members. They have not done any study that confirms that even golf members can be retained under any new ownership. Let’s be honest, these few have delayed the owners plan to benefit the many. Let’s hope this ends soon.

  3. whit Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 8:00 am

    This is getting confusing.

    As I understand it, Mr. Tuck owns the course and Killearn CC members own the club house, hotel, pool and tennis courts?

    Did Mr. Tuck offer to sell the course to the KCC members? If so, what happened?

    • Paul Forshay Reply

      October 27, 2015 at 9:12 am

      No, Mr. Tuck owns it all. The Special Covenants specify that only the golf course, pro shop, and cart barn, will be offered for sale. The members own nothing. As stated earlier, the overwhelming majority of the members have approved of Mr. Tuck’s plan, so it is ASSUMED that the membership will also reject the sale offer.

  4. John Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 9:39 am

    This article is ridiculous. I thought this site was above the sensationalism you see in journalism today, but that is clearly not the case. The quote from Judge Hankinson was on a clearly different issue as it related to members voting to allow Mr. Tuck to not follow the restrictive covenants on the property. The owner is following all court orders. It is very amusing how individuals make up their own “facts” to suit their argument. Whoever wrote this article and the opponents to Mr. Tuck’s plan can’t point to one instance where he has ignored a court order. False reporting like this is the reason the general public has lost all confidence in journalism.

    The owner is following the restrictive covenant and has offered the course to the membership for sale. Under that covenant, the members of the club have until November 2nd to exercise the option to purchase if they want to. The members have appointed their representatives and we’ll see what they decide.

    • Claire Duchemin Reply

      October 27, 2015 at 10:10 am

      John: You should not accuse a journalist of sensationalism when the reporter has taken the time to actually read the transcripts and the court orders and motions giving rise to those orders. Before you repeat the owner’s mantra about how the covenant works, you need to examine the law in Florida and understand it. Actually, this appears to be one of the first unbiased reports we have had to date detailing the actual rulings from the court. Despite the Judge’s determination that factual issues precluded summary judgment on who got to elect the panel, or what authority the panel of three would have or how it would work, the owner is plowing ahead with his own interpretation of how he wants things to work. You should read the court file, and the transcripts of the hearings before you spout off about biased journalism. Too many people are repeating things that simply are untrue.

    • Steve

      Steve Reply

      October 27, 2015 at 10:59 am

      John, I reviewed court documents and talked to lawyers not affiliated with this case. I stand by our reporting. Your anonymous attack adds little to the debate. If you have facts that contradict what we are reporting I can be reached at 766-6208.

  5. Vic Aderhold

    Vic Aderhold Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Well, Steve, looks like you have been duly chastised by “John” who doesn’t want his last name in print.

  6. Concerned for Killearn Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Killearn Facts

    Like so many others commenting on the Killearn Country Club situation you are completely misinformed and spreading the propaganda being fed to the members by the Club Management, Mr. Tuck, his Attorney and the Club’s hand picked panel.

    The “LAW” is quite clear, the majority cannot waive the rights of the minority in this matter, the covenant runs with the land and each member can exercise their individual right. The first vote was called a poll and the current vote is has no relevancy as a legal matter. Just propaganda and more confusion designed to take everyones eyes off the real issue.

    In early October, Mr. Pat Murray and several others in favor of the Members Right to Purchase held a meeting, open to all Club members to discuss and inform others of their plans. The Club, Mr. Tuck and his attorney, were asked, but refused to inform the membership about this meeting. The meeting was advertised via email, newspaper, etc. But attendance was quite small, only about 30 members.

    Ask yourself why the Club, Mr. Tuck and his attorney didn’t want the members to find out about the meeting and the plans of those interested in the Member Right to Purchase. What do they want hidden from the membership?

    At that meeting Mr. Murray presented a clear plan and time line, although contingent on ongoing court rulings, and answered all questions posed by those attending. Every single question was answered clearly.

    Present at that meeting were two of the “Clubs Panel”, Tico Gimbel and Gino Betta. They heard the plan, heard the questions and answers, even saw a set of drawings of an alternative design for a new club house, pro shop, exercise room and dining and 19th hole. Why haven’t you seen or heard anything from the “Panel”. I’ve seen them say in writing they haven’t seen a plan. What are the hiding?

    Mr. Murray has repeatedly asked the Club Management and Mr. Tucks attorney to allow him to make the same presentation to the entire membership at the Club. Why haven’t you heard about that? Mr. Gimbel knows of those requests also.

    If you want information, have questions, insist the Club host a meeting and invite Mr. Murray to speak. The truth and facts are much more revealing than propaganda and innuendo. Please try to get the facts straight in the future.

  7. Pat Murray Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 11:16 am

    I have repeatedly offered to present the plan we are following as we move forward in our effort to save the Killearn Country Club and the property values of the home owners in Killearn Estates.

    I have been stonewalled and refused access at every junction. I’ve read and heard the lies, rumors, innuendo and misinformed legal interpretations from many.

    I have been completely open about what those working so hard to save Killearn Country Club are doing.

    Ask the Club Management, Mr. Tuck and his attorney and the “Panel” what they are hiding from the members.

    I remain willing to present our plan and answer any and all relevant questions in an open forum. I have offered this repeatedly. I will even video tape the presentation, questions and answers and put it on the internet in order to minimize misinterpretation.

    Thanks, Pat Murray

  8. Paul Forshay Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 11:19 am

    I will just say publicly, that if the opponents to Mr. Tuck’s plan are succesful and find a way to acquire what property is available to them, I will be quitting my membership and going elsewhere. Will I be missed? No! But my dues, cart fees, food spending, and pro shop purchases will be. So if the opponents want to be profitable, they will survey the current membership to see how many will continue to be members (which they have not done). I can only speak for myself, so reduce the projections in your Business Plan (which no one has seen) by 1.

    • Barb Reply

      October 27, 2015 at 1:14 pm

      Why would you leave, as things would only progress sooner without needing zoning changes and fewer permits. Mr Murray presented a very workable plan while keeping the lawful covenants in mind. What will we do with all the junior golfers who are playing the north? Are you willing to give them time to play the south and east on Sundays? How about the tournaments? Are you willing to be kicked off your KCC to accommodate them and not have the north to play? The question is also begging to be answered, how much cash is needed from the sale of property to build a new clubhouse, fix the greens, bunkers and watering system? What if the sale not does meet the monetary needs of KCC? What will be set aside to be done at a later date? Why has nothing been done in the past 20 years? Come on now. Be realistic and also remember the court has yet to rule. The divisive nature of this battle is to the point of no return and the opponents of ownership purchase have not even considered another opportunity. Or maybe you all like the idea of a nursing home on site?

      • Paul Forshay Reply

        October 27, 2015 at 6:24 pm

        Barb, my reason for leaving is that the handwriting would be on the wall. There have not been many member purchases of golf courses that have gone very well. As for progressing sooner, had the lawsuits not stopped him, Mr. Tuck would have been much farther along in the restructure. The holdup has to be blamed on those of you that brought the suit. As far as the nursing home is concerned, I will be glad to utilize its services in a few years when I need it. It will be in a terrific location for me. You ask me why I’d quit? It’s because your group has delayed this process and called those of us that support Mr. Tuck’s plan some pretty unsavory things. I don’t need to be lectured by your group as to why or why not I make my decision. You have alienated many members this way and, trust me, they feel as I do.

  9. Laurie Davis Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    There are several things I don’t understand.

    I don’t understand why Members have not been allowed to hear alternatives at their own Club facility and why their “panel of 3,” who continually claim they “represent” the Members, has not shared vital information with them.

    I don’t understand the double standard some Members are applying, DEMANDING a written plan and financial projections, when the same have not been asked of nor provided by Mr. Tuck.

    I don’t understand how the potential member purchasing group can provide the written financial projections being clamored for by a VERY small group of Members, when the purchase price hasn’t even been determined.

    I don’t understand how someone can proceed with a “vote” when the Court has yet to clarify SO MANY issues, and when the recently filed and recorded Lis Pendens will subject all the things Mr. Tuck is doing and having Members do to the Court rulings.

    I don’t understand the legitimacy of the panel of 3 “elected” by some KGCC Members when the covenants state the panel is to act as representative and attorney-in-fact for members PURCHASING the course, the Court agreed the panel should NOT be comprised of individuals representing Mr. Tuck’s interests, and the process mapping out how the panel is to be selected has yet to be determined by the Court.

    I don’t understand how anyone can look at the Agreement Mr. Tuck recently sent out and not see contradictions, loopholes, and vague language which doesn’t appear to guarantee much at all. It even puts the responsibility for maintaining membership levels squarely on the Members themselves, if they hope to keep their Club private. The last time I checked, companies do their own marketing and selling; they don’t ask their customers to do it for them.

    I keep hearing about Members’ and residents’ confusion. At this point, there should be no confusion. We all must wait for the Courts to clarify and rule. Nothing happens until that time. I believe part of the confusion stems from facts being presented, and then they are contradicted and twisted to suit the purposes of Mr. Tuck, his attorney, and his team of KGCC Members. It pains me to see the way Members are being manipulated and baited with promises of a new clubhouse. They deserve better after their many, many years of loyalty to a Club which has been bled dry by the same individual many are professing loyalty to.

    I think it might be time for people to stop being so stubborn and look at the big picture, including Mr. Tuck’s history and all the closure and redevelopment of golf courses EVERYWHERE. I think it might be time to stop the name calling AND SEE THE FACTS. There is no shame in admitting, “I was wrong. Let’s do the right thing for ourselves, our Club, AND OUR ENTIRE COMMUNITY.”

    These are my opinions, and I thank Tallahassee Reports for the opportunity to exercise my right to free speech.

    • Paul Forshay Reply

      October 27, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      Laurie, are you a member?

  10. bob fulford Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Check the genesis of Hilaman and especially Capital City Country Club for possible guidance.

  11. Killearn dissident Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    if the majority cannot waive the property rights of the minority then I can plant political signs in my front yard during October of election years, right?

  12. Bill Bubsey Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Congratulations to Barb and Laurie who have logically analyzed several issues, in my view quite accurately. I am very cognizant and appreciative of the efforts of Pat Murray, who is making every effort to salvage our Club, notwithstanding the roadblocks he continues to encounter in trying to present his alternative plan. I suggest that everyone review Mike Moody’s comments regarding the nonbinding proposal by the owner. While I understand everyone’s frustration, quitting the club does not seem to be an appropriate reaction.

  13. Paul Forshay Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Just ask Pat Murray for a copy of the Financial Business Plan and see what you get. So far, nothing. Lest he say it has not yet been asked for, it has, and if he can’t find the request, I am asking now.

    • Barb jennings Reply

      October 27, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      How about a financial business plan from Mr Tuck? I have asked questions during the meetings at KCC and get no answers either. I am sorely disappointed that both parties have not met before the membership so the differences can be seen. As is, we are all seeming to side with emotion rather than logic. What is the possibility of having both present to us all? Would Mr Tuck supporters even be bothered to attend? I feel he must present his financial plan also.

      • Paul Reply

        October 27, 2015 at 8:16 pm

        Mr. Tuck has no obligation to present a business plan to you or the members. He owns the club already and can do what he needs to be successful. He has told us what that needs to be. On the other hand , your group is the group proposing buy the golf course, cart barn, and maintenance building and to rid yourself of the pool, the tennis courts, dining room, and locker rooms. Yes, you showed a drawing that will replace the buildings, with no financial plan on how you propose to pay for it. In addition, are we to do without the pool or tennis courts? I want a 5 and 10 year financial spreadsheet with all assumptions to back up your plan. Why can’t we get that? Oh, you don’t have it to send? I thought so. How many members will you lose without the pool and tennis? Have you any idea? Just too many unknowns with your proposal.

        • Jim Reply

          October 28, 2015 at 9:38 am

          Mr. Tuck is asking members to forgo the protection of the covenant in favor of his representations, yet Paul here says he doesn’t have to present a plan “because he owns the club.” What? That makes no sense. His status as title holder doesn’t afford him a right to secrecy, or to bully the neighborhood and owners of homes around the club. Mr. Murray apparently can’t get the historical financials from Mr. Tuck, so why is he being harassed for detailed financial projections. By Paul’s logic, Mr. Murray can do what he needs to do after he buys it, and will have no obligation to present a business plan.

          Aside from this whole ruckus, it getting lost in the mix that us homeowners have a separate legal claim pending. Since Mr. Tuck owned the golf course when our roads were built, lots sold, and homes constructed in reliance on the golf course, he can’t change the use of the land to anything other than a golf course, and must sell to another golf course operator if he no longer wants to operate the North.

          • Paul Forshay

            October 29, 2015 at 11:47 am

            Well there you go jim. If you understood business, you would “get it”. Mr. Tuck HAS presented his plan TO THE MEMBERS, which is all he is required to do. By plannig to close the North, the Special Covenants were triggered and now just a couple of members have tried to offer to buy the prpoerty covered by the Special Covenants. It is those folks that need to convince the OTHER MDEMBERS that they can make a business of it. This is a MEMBER issue, and no one else’s. If this group wants so badly to buy the property, why is it that you don’t think they have to? I am not convinced they can provide a new swimming pool, new Tennis courts, or the necessary facilities needed for THEM to succeed. So, as a member who needs to make a decision on whether I am for or against THEIR plan I and our elected panel have a right to ask for the Business Plan.

  14. Mike Reply

    October 28, 2015 at 9:40 am

    As a Killearn resident but not a golfer nor owning a home on the golf course,
    one main reason my wife and I chose to buy here was the enduring beauty and value of Killearn, certainly enhanced by the large golf course. I can see both sides of the discussion, but Mr. Tuck seemingly bulldozing ahead and trying to disregard the covenant in question or interpret it to his advantage looks to this outsider like an attempted end-run around an inconvenient covenant.
    As a property owner, it grates me that someone can simply “re-zone” land adjacent to my property that was covered by a covenant when I chose to buy here, partially based on that covenant.

    Since the majority of KCC members seem to mainly point at the lack of a clear financial/P/L speadsheet/plan (for the club’s future under new management) on the part of the minority, perhaps the judge should require:

    1. That a mutually agreed-upon time (by both majority/minority) for the minority to produce such a financial plan be designated before any “vote” or any other proceedings by Mr. Tuck occur.

    2. If the minority can’t produce a workable and realistic financial plan in the agreed time frame, as judged by an independent panel of golf course experts or golf management companies, then the majority and minority would be subject to a ruling by mediation on proceeding with Mr. Tuck.

    3. If the minority can produce such a plan in the agreed time frame, and it is ruled to be viable/professionally sustainable by the independent golf panel, and it is completely reviewed and signatured (by legal requirement) by ALL club members, then and only then can the minority exercise their Right to Purchase.

    Perhaps the above is a vast over-simplification of the issue, but one-side-only meetings and preemptive manuevers by Mr. Tuck are definitely the path to numerous lawsuits and court time.

    To my knowledge, FSU has a Golf Course Management degree and curriculum that is widely recognized as a quality program. Between some representatives of that and a few from well-known golf course management companies, perhaps a good independent, professional judgement of any P/L financial plan be reached.

  15. Chris W Reply

    October 29, 2015 at 8:55 am

    As a Killearn homeowner I have followed this story with great interest. The current fight for ownership of the course will come to an end. It is what happens after the dust is settled that interests me. Will KCC remain a private course that has struggled to remain a viable business or will it look at other similar business models that made changes to succeed. No matter who the owner is the course needs to be opened up to the public. A public course can offer multilevel memberships that meet the needs and interest of a far greater audience than the current private model offers.

    The sport of golf is in decline, there is no denying this fact. Private course membership numbers are down nationwide. If the current trend continues for years as the PGA has suggested it will; will there be enough private members at KCC to keep the doors open five or ten years from now? Without the foresight to see what the future holds in terms of golf as business model, it will not matter who holds the keys to the clubhouse if you have to lock it up for good.

  16. Potential Buyer Reply

    May 2, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    I don’t live in Killearn at all. I live in Tallahassee looking for a nice neighborhood to buy a house with nice people. I just read allllllll these post. One thing is certain ….. I won’t be moving anywhere around any of you….

    Just a suggestion . Everyone quit putting your dirty laundry online… Your ALL hurting your home values. With or without a golf course…

    Go to one of those churches in your neighborhood pray and find some love kindness and civility.

    By the time you read this I’ve already bought somewhere else..

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